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Once Upon a Time in Andalusia-PART II


The Meaning of Life in Andalusia


The meaning of life and its goal in Andalusia at the time of its Islamic apogy, directed each act of day to day life, as well as scientific and technical research. The spiritual giants like the Muslims Ibn Rushd (i (1126-1198) known in the West as AverroŽs and Ibn Arabi (1165-1240), or the Jewish philosopher Maimonides (11351204), are some of the men who put across most brilliantly the message of Andalusia. This spirit lay behind all the scientific and technical progress of those golden centuries.


Science was not set apart from wisdom and faith, and nothing can express this fact better than Ibn Rushd when he writes:


Our philosophy would serve for nothing if it were not able to link these three things which I have tried to join in my 'Harmony of science and religion':

A Science, founded on experience and logic, to discover reasons.


A Wisdom, which reflects on the purpose of every scientific research so that it serves to make our life more beautiful.


A Revelation, that of our Qur'an, as it is only through revelation that we know the final purposes of our life and our history.


The unity of the Abrahamic tradition and the critical approach to philosophy are expressed with the same force, in the work of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides, who was a contemporary of Ibn Rushd. At the synagogue before the Torah, he said:


If for Ibn Rushd the Holy Book is not our Torah but the Qur'an, we both agree about the contributions of reason and of revelation. These are two manifestations of one same divine truth. There is only a contradiction when one is faithful to a literal reading of the scriptures, forgetting about their eternal meaning.


In Andalusia, Islam takes a new dimension with Ibn 'Arabi, nicknamed Muhyi al-Din (the one who gives life to faith). What interested Ibn Arabi was not what a man said about his faith, but rather what this faith makes of that man. He states:


God is unity. The unity of love, of the lover and the beloved. Every love is a wish for union. Every love consciously or unconsciously is a love for God.


Bear witness to this presence of God within yourself, of God's creation, which never ceases. The act is the exterior manifestation of faith. Islam recognizes all the Prophets as messengers of the same God. Learn to discover in each man the seed of a desire for God, even if his belief is still dim and sometime idolatrous. Help to lead him towards the fullest Light.

Ibn Rushd endeavours to bring to light the universal message of Islam overshadowed by regional traditions, when he defines the best society as, 'That where every woman, every child and every man is given the means of developing the possibilities God has given to each of them.' The power to establish it 'will not be a theocracy, like that of the Christians of Europe, a power of religious accomplices or tyrants: God says in the Qur'an, "He has breathed into man His spirit". Let us make Him live in every man!' When asked about the conditions ofsuch a society, he answers: 'A society will be free and pleasing to God, when none acts either out of fear of the Prince or of Hell, nor the wish of a reward from a Courtesan or of Paradise, and when no-one says: This is mine.'


Islam in Andalusia gave birth to a number of spiritual giants who have shown that humanity has no future without the warmth and the spiritual values that emanate from the belief in the transcendence and oneness of God. Men such as Ibn Massara of Cَrdoba (883-931), for whom man was responsible of his own history; Ibn Hazm of Cَrdoba (994-1064) who was a pioneer of the comparative history of religions; Ibn Gabirol of Malaga (1020-1070) whose fundamental work was the synthesis of the Jewish faith and the philosophy of Ibn Massara; Ibn Bajja (1090-1139) with whom the Islamic philosophy xvas presented in a systematic way with its own direction; Ibn Tufayl from Cلdiz (1100-1185) whose central theme was the relation between reason and faith.


All these men of knowledge, wisdom and faith stand as memories to a glorious past when true Islam was preached and practised; a time when the beautiful example of the Muslims won them fame and respect; a time when these peace-loving people would rise simply because injustice was being practised and would fight in the name of God with a strength that led handfuls of believers to victory over armies of non-believers.



In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.


Allah! There is no God but He,

the Living, the Self-subsisting, the Eternal.

No slumber can seize Him, nor sleep.

All things in heaven and earth are His.

Who could intercede in His presence without His permission?

He knows what appears in front of and behind His creatures.

Nor can they encompass any knowledge of Him except what he wills.

His throne extends over the heavens and the earth,

and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them,

for He is the Highest and Most Exalted.†† [Quran 2: 255]


Islam Guide: A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam


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